Camping under Meteors

The Leonid Meteor Shower lit up the Eastern Shore sky on a cold evening this past month. The annual event happens around November 17th and often requires its viewers to bundle up – and this year was no exception. The near freezing temperatures would not deter the Junior Naturalist of Pickering Creek Audubon Center from an opportunity to spot a meteor.

A periodic warm-up by the fire for some of the Junior Naturalists participating in the Meteor Shower campout.

The Junior Naturalists are local 7th-12th graders who spend the school year learning about and visiting Maryland’s diverse environments and the summer volunteering during Pickering Creek’s popular EcoCamp. The students are as diverse as the habitats they explore – they come with different interests, hobbies, and knowledge of our environment – but all are excited to spend more time outside.

Pickering Creek planned a campout along the waterfront for the Junior Naturalists so they could quickly escape to their warm tents but the teens had another idea. Starting around 8:00 pm, they started counting off meteors. The tents were quickly abandoned. The Junior Naturalists decided instead to zip into their sleeping bags at the end of Pickering Creek’s dock.

“I counted 18 meteors!” exclaimed Harrison, a new Junior Naturalists, the next morning. As they warmed up over a pancake breakfast, the Junior Naturalists shared stories of the meteors, nighttime sounds over the water, and compared the thickness of frost found on their sleeping bags. Hopefully their next monthly meeting won’t be quite as cold as they hike into the forest for an owl prowl.

To learn more about the yearlong Junior Naturalist program, contact Krysta Hougen at Pickering Creek Audubon Center (khougen@audubon.org).

Winging It at Pickering Creek Audubon Center

Participants in the recent Introduction to Bird Language public program at Pickering Creek Audubon Center were treated to a unique outdoor experience at the Center’s new Peterson Woods at Pickering Creek Audubon Center. The Introduction to Bird Language public program was a fun way to enjoy outdoors for diverse group of people ranging from very experienced bird watchers to others who simply enjoyed wildlife and spending time outside.  All eyes and binoculars zoomed in on the creek response to lively chattering as a bird flew by. “There goes a kingfisher!” someone excitedly called out.  These visitors at Peterson Woods were enjoying a day outdoors, not just looking for birds, but listening and learning how to interpret what the birds were saying through their sounds and behaviors.

Intro to bird Language participants scanning for birds over the creek.

Jon Young of BirdLanguage.org says, “The calls, postures, and other behaviors of birds convey much information to those who understand their patterns. The attentive, trained observer can deduce through bird language the location of predators and other forces on the landscape.

The reaction of birds and animals also speaks volumes about the awareness and behavior of the observer. In this way, birds become a barometer for one’s own awareness of the landscape, both inner and outer.”

One of the goals of the program was to help participants sharpen their perception beyond the everyday things they might ordinarily notice.  Participants spent time tuning into birds and other nature sounds.  After many minutes of concentrated listening, several were surprised at the variety of things they heard– from the splashing of fish in the nearby creek, to the rat-ta-tat drumming of woodpeckers in the distance, to the dim drone of a plane high overhead, and the tiny scraping of leaves scattering across a concrete patio in a gentle breeze.  They listened to and practiced identifying different types of bird sounds-calls, alarms, songs- then applied their new knowledge and heightened awareness listening for birds on a woodland walk.  “ I think that’s an alarm. I’ve heard that bird in my yard before ” noted one person.  They also observed the interactions of birds at a feeder and discovered common patterns behavior birds display when people or potential predators disturb them.

The highlight of the morning included having bluejays call back during a bird observation activity to human crow calls. Everyone left the program eager to try out their new skills observing birds more closely at their homes.

Peter Yungbluth and Dave Bent listening at bird calls being played on ipad by Jaime Bunting.

Introduction to Bird Language kicked off several bird-centered public programs geared to people of all ages and bird watching skill levels as well as a wide range of interests in the outdoors planned through this spring at Pickering Creek Audubon Center.

Adults new to the bird watching can come out for the Beginner Bird Basics program on Saturday February 10, 10:00am to 12:00pm.  Join Pickering Creek staff and knowledgeable birders for a fun and engaging morning honing your birding skills at Peterson Woods.

Birders of all ages and abilities are invited to participate in Great Backyard Bird Count at Pickering Creek on Saturday, February 17 from 9:00am to 12:00pm. Several birding groups will be lead by experienced birders who will count and tally species we find along the Centers trails during this annual nationwide winter census of birds.

Enjoy a unique evening birding experience during the Flight of the Timberdoodle program on Tuesday, March 13 from 7:00 to 8:30pm.  Look for the male woodcocks as they call and perform a dazzling display in Pickering Creek’s warm season grass meadows.

Gather up some gardening ideas in time for spring during the Planting for Birds program on Saturday, April 14, 10:00am to 12:00pm.  Find out how you can invite feathered friends to your yard with plants that provide birds with what they need.

And if you are bit disappointed that you missed an opportunity to understand what birds are chattering about in your backyard, you is still another chance to find out this spring when Pickering Creek Audubon Center holds a second Introduction to Bird Language on Tuesday, May 1 from 10:00am to 12:00pm.

Pickering Creek Announces Late Fall Programs for the Public

Pickering Creek’s four miles of trails are open to the public dawn to dusk every day.  In addition to wandering on your own the Center invites the community to join us at one of our upcoming programs, they are a great opportunities to get outside this fall.

A student at the Center looking at a skink he captured on his woods walk.

Introduction to Bird Language will be held on Saturday, November 4 from 9:00 – 11:00am. Participants will discover the language of birds and listen in on what they tell us about the world around us during this fun morning at the Center’s newest tract, Peterson Woods at Pickering Creek Audubon Center. You will sharpen your observation skills and uncover the keys to understanding unique patterns of behavior common to birds through guided instruction and outdoor activities. You’ll see birds and the world we share with them in a whole new way. The program requires no experience in bird watching and is for adults. More bird fun is offered the following week with Hoot and Holler Owl Prowl on Friday, November 10 from 5:30 – 7:30pm. Take a break from the crowds in town and use your senses to discover nightlife on an evening hike at Pickering Creek! Participants will listen for Barred Owls calling, “Whoooo cooks for youuu,” identify the rambunctious hoots of the Great Horned Owl, and awe at the whinnies coming from our smallest, the Eastern Screech Owl.  Adults and families with children are welcome as we search out Owls at the Center.

Pickering offers a pre Thanksgiving exploration for our youngest friends with their parents and grandparents at Tiny Tots:  Totally Turkeys! on Thursday, November 16, 2017 from 10:00 – 11:00am. Bring your 3 to 5 year old to Pickering Creek for a morning of turkey tales, gobbling, outdoor exploration, and a craft.  We’ll start with a fall-theme turkey story before adventuring outside in search of turkey habitat.  Your tiny turkey will leave with a fun and creative turkey craft.

The season’s final offering is an opportunity to get outside, volunteer and make your community nature center even better.  At the Fall Cleanup on Saturday, December 9 from 9:00 am-12:00 pm you are invited to join Center staff for the last Saturday Service Day at Pickering Creek Audubon Center of the year. We will be painting inside our garden classroom during this down time between the fall and spring school field trip season.  We’ll also be clearing the leaves from the waterfront picnic area and making adjustments to the trails. Join us for a hearty morning of activity then stay for potluck lunch. If you’d like to sign up to attend a program at the Center please call 410 822 4903, reservations are strongly recommended as programs do sell out.

10th Annual Gilbert Byron Day to be Observed on October 8

The Gilbert Byron House. Photograph by George Hatcher

The tenth annual Gilbert Byron Day will be observed on Sunday, October 8 during the annual Pickering Creek Harvest Hoedown.  In addition to the many other family oriented activities of the day, visitors will have the opportunity to visit Byron’s home. The small self-built house, pictured above, has been relocated from San Domingo Creek near St. Michaels to the Pickering Creek Audubon Center where it is undergoing restoration. With only his pet dogs for companions, Byron spent nearly half of his life in this house. It was here that he produced what is likely the largest collection of writing about the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay Regions authored by a single person. His published work includes 14 books; scores of poems; more than 170 short stories and general interest articles; and over 2,000 area newspaper columns.

During the Hoedown, the Gilbert Byron house will be open to visitors where they will have to opportunity to learn about the life and literary work of this “Voice of the Chesapeake.” Information: gilberbyron.orgpickeringcreek.audubon.org/about-us

Pickering Creek’s Harvest Hoedown Celebrates Fall October 8

Pickering Creek celebrates fall on the Eastern Shore at this year’s Harvest Hoedown on Sunday October 8. Harvest Hoedown features music at three locations, unique craftspeople, nature walks, wildlife exhibits, boat rides on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Winnie Estelle and entertaining kids and adult activities as well as food prepared by the Easton Lions Club and new local food vendors. Activities and vendors will be found throughout Pickering Creek. Explore the property with hay wagon rides or take a stroll on the forest trail for a sampling of the Eastern Shore’s natural beauty from wetlands to 100 year-old trees, all highlighted in vibrant fall colors.

Great Family Fun at Harvest Hoedown.

Harvest Hoedown 2017 will feature live music, puppet shows, a family friendly scavenger hunt with prizes and storytellers will give families great entertainment and fun throughout the day.  Milkweed plants and pollinator seed balls will be available for guests who participate in fun activities about monarch butterflies, pollinators and climate. From deep in the vaults of Pickering Creek the Harvest Hoedown T-Shirt Art collection will be on display, featuring the great folk art that has graced the back of each Harvest Hoedown T-Shirt for the last seventeen years.  These works will be on display at the Center’s Welcome Center.  Scheduled events will include not only music on the main stage, but also brief nature talks by area naturalists including topics such as Bird Rescue, Poplar Island, Monarchs, Honey Bees and more.

This year features a number of great returning craftsmen including Matt Redman’s Chesapeake Soaps and Bee George Honey.  Both Matt and George have great interactive displays and are mainstays of our local community. Craftspeople from across the peninsula including Joan Devaney, Damaris ToyWorks, Plein Air Painters, Sisters Clay Art, Birdworx and Wacky Wind Chimes and more will have locally made quality items on sale that make great Christmas gifts and birthday presents while supporting our local economy.

Harvest Hoedown features great music for all ages!  The Harvest Hoedown main stage, framed by Pickering’s historic corncrib, will host toe tapping blues and bluegrass with four acts throughout the day. The kid’s stage is just down the lane right next to Pickering’s beautiful gardens, surrounded by a bevy of fun educational activities led by Audubon Naturalists and budding volunteer leaders.  The musical artists featured frequently perform in their own right, but Pickering puts them all together for a wonderful fall day of music and fun.

Slim Harrison and new Sunnyland Band’s youngest members.

The kid’s stage features a very accomplished act from Western Maryland. First Slim Harrison and the Sunnyland Band return for their sixteenth year.  The best thing about the Sunnyland Band is that it is you!  With over 40,000 members worldwide it may very well be the biggest band around. For over 25 years, Slim has performed at Schools and Festivals, Hoedowns & Throwdowns all over North America and around the world.  He is a “Master Artist” with the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts and full-time “Artist in Residence” with the Maryland State Arts Council – Artists in Education, Touring Artists Program.

Slim’s solo performance titled: “Exploring the Roots of American Folk Music” teaches children about the many cultures that brought lots of different flavors to the American Musical Gumbo.  Kids are given an opportunity to join the “Sunnyland Band” and play along on spoons, jugs, washboards, skiffleboards, limberjacks, washtub bass, PA Dutch “stumpf-fiddles”, African tambourines, Cajun frattrois,  Native American whammy-diddles, Chinese gaos, Latin maracas, clave`s & quiros.

The main stage kicks off at 11:00 am with local favorites Alan Girard and Meredith Lathbury, followed by Baltimore musician Norm Hogeland. Playing next at Harvest Hoedown on the main stage are Slim Harrison and the Rock Candy Cloggers.

Headlining the main stage is the New and Used Bluegrass band, based on the Eastern Shore with members from across the shore. New and Used Bluegrass features Alan Breeding on banjo, Jim Bieneman on bass fiddle and vocals, Toby Price on mandolin and vocals, Ed Finkner on guitar and vocals and Jon Simmons on fiddle, mandolin and vocals. New and Used Bluegrass performs various flavors of bluegrass music, ranging from the traditional  – like the Stanley Brothers “How Mountain Girls Can Love” to “Eastbound and Down” from the Smokey and the Bandit movie, to “Caravan”, a Duke Ellington tune, as well as assorted banjo and fiddle tunes and songs.  They are well known locally for their excellent bluegrass pickin’.

Harvest Hoedown is generously supported by the following sponsors: Bartlett Griffin and Vermilye, Shore United Bank, Wye Gardens, LLC, Johnson Lumber Company, Colin Walsh & Carolyn Williams, Richard & Beverly Tilghman, Stuart and Melissa Strahl, The Star Democrat, the Chesapeake Audubon Society, Out of the Fire, Kelly Distributing, and Pepsi Cola. Please contact the Center for if you would like to be a sponsor.

Harvest Hoedown means fun for all ages!  Music, hayrides, boat rides, local arts, and great family activities put smiles on every face. Mark your calendar, dig up your overalls, boots and hat and make your way out to Pickering Creek on October 8.  We will be having fun from 11 am- 4 pm.

Audubon and Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage offer Habitat Workshop for Landowners

Pickering Creek Audubon Center and Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage (CWH) will present an exciting educator and landowner training on September 28th, 2017 from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The training, Restoring Habitat in the Chesapeake Bay Region of the Atlantic Flyway, includes lunch and is offered free of charge for participants thanks to a 2016 grant from Waterfowl Chesapeake, the conservation arm of the annual Waterfowl Festival. Pickering Creek and CWH have previously partnered to restore 90 acres of non-tidal wetlands, plant 11 acres of woodlands, and create 48 acres of warm season grass meadows at Pickering Creek. All of these projects are used to showcase habitat restoration and land management activities.

The training is designed for large landowners and caretakers, staff and volunteer leaders of local land conservancy, environmental education and other conservation and community organizations in an effort to encourage each organization’s constituents to restore large tracts of farmland to bird and wildlife habitat. During this one-day workshop staff and lead volunteers from partnering organizations will receive in depth training on the value of these projects to birdlife, wildlife and water quality.

The workshop will focus not only on the benefits, but will also touch upon the methods of restoring cropland to a variety of habitats including warm season grass buffers and meadows, forest buffers and freshwater wetlands. The training will emphasize the value of these habitats to birds along the Atlantic Flyway, particularly field size restoration projects that can affect landscape scale improvement to local ecosystems. At the conclusion of the training, participants will have a stock presentation and script that they will be able to use to give short presentations to the local community groups they are in contact with on the value of habitat restoration projects, the basic methods of implementation and contact information for technical and financial assistance required to initiate a project.

In Maryland, wetlands have declined by 70% according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Wildlife populations have suffered from that loss of habitat including, according to Audubon’s State of the Birds, Northern Pintail (decline of 77%), Eastern Meadowlark (72%), Grasshopper Sparrow (65%) and Northern Bobwhite (82%). The USGS notes that 95% of nutrients in Chesapeake Bay drainage of the Delmarva Peninsula comes from agriculture (USGS Circular 1228). In forested habitat Wood Thrush have declined 30% and continue to decline 1.7% each year. Attention to opportunities by community leaders to optimize habitats of these species is critical to their survival.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, 20-500 acre properties are still commonly found. Though rich in traditional ‘environmental’ organizations, individual landowners have a great opportunity to learn about, implement and spread the word about land management practices that can improve the health of the Bay and wildlife.

The workshop will conclude with a session on Audubon’s “Plants for Birds” program. More native plants mean more choices of food and shelter for native birds and other wildlife. To survive, native birds need native plants and the insects that have co-evolved with them. Most landscaping plants available in nurseries are exotic species from other countries. Many are prized for qualities that make them poor food sources for native birds—like having leaves that are unpalatable to native insects and caterpillars. With 96 percent of all terrestrial bird species in North America feeding insects to their young, planting insect-proof exotic plants is like serving up plastic food. No insects? No birds.

The workshop is sponsored by Waterfowl Chesapeake as part of their effort to connect financial resources with environmental needs and also increase community engagement and people’s understanding of the importance and benefits of healthy waterfowl habitats and populations on the Shore. Pickering Creek Audubon Center has been educating citizens on the Eastern Shore of Maryland about the environment for twenty-five years. A strong relationship with local school programs and community groups helps facilitate more than 12,000 program contacts with individuals each year. The Center’s 400 acres of forest, wetland, tidal marsh and agricultural fields exhibit the broad diversity of habitats that represent Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

To register for the training please contact Mark Scallion mscallion@audubon.org or Samantha Pitts spitts@audubon.org at Pickering Creek Audubon Center, 410.822.4903

Summer Butterflies and Migrating Monarchs at Pickering Creek

Visit Pickering Creek Audubon Center this August and September for three excellent opportunities to learn about local butterflies! On Saturday, August 12 from 10:30AM to 12:30 PM, butterfly experts Theresa Murray and Frank Boyle are returning for a second year to lead a “Spectacular Summer Butterflies” talk and walk. Theresa Murray has been learning about butterflies and their life cycles over the past 20 years. She currently maintains gardens with nectar plants and host plants for several butterflies including monarchs. Frank Boyle is a naturalist and butterfly specialist from Rohrersville, MD. He leads several NABA (North American Butterfly Association) annual 4th of July butterfly counts in Maryland and the mountains of Virginia. He has been chasing and gardening for butterflies for 23 years. A short presentation about the most common butterflies on the Eastern Shore of Maryland will kick off the program. The group will then walk along Pickering Creek’s meadow trails to look for various species and the native plants that attract them. Participants will Learn about identifying features of these exquisite insects and observe the beautiful blooming plants that bring them in.

Participants in Pickering Creek’s Monarch Watch Tagging program try to carefully catch butterflies sipping nectar on wetland plants.

On September 13th and 20th from 4:30 to 6:00 PM, Pickering Creek naturalists will lead two Monarch Tagging events during the butterflies’ fall migration. Each year, monarchs migrate from their breeding grounds in North America to their overwintering grounds in Mexico. This year the University of Kansas’s Monarch Watch predicts high numbers of monarchs migrating south. Participating in their nationwide citizen science tagging program is a great way to learn about this charismatic local animal and contribute to scientific research on its population, challenges and resiliency. Both tagging events at Pickering Creek will include a short program on the lifecycle and migration of monarchs and how climate change is affecting them followed by an excursion into the wetland meadows where monarchs will be sipping nectar as they fuel up for their journey south! No experience is necessary.

Register for these programs by calling 410-822-4903 or emailing Mary Helen Gillen at mgillen@audubon.org.

Pickering Journal: Sixth Graders Invade Audubon Center

“Oh, my gosh, they are so cute!” a sixth grade student whispers after peering into a bluebird nest box during a hike at Pickering Creek Audubon Center. Talbot County’s 340 sixth grade science students visited Pickering Creek in May for a field experience that culminated from multiple classroom lessons about wetlands, birds and climate change. Seeing the baby birds up close is an exciting moment for each student that builds a personal connection to local wildlife.

Student pairs use binoculars and bird guides to identify as many birds as possible during their field trip at Pickering Creek.

During each field trip to the 400-acre wildlife sanctuary, the sixth graders hike along the forest and meadow trails that are home to many residential birds like Northern Cardinals and migratory birds like Tree Swallows. Short competitions ensue when students use binoculars and field guides to identify hidden bird pictures in the meadow’s brush. Later, the students play a game, acting like birds competing for food resources on their nesting grounds. A “normal” year becomes much more challenging when an unusually warm winter results in plants blooming weeks before the migratory birds arrive in the spring, creating unforeseen competition for resources among the student “birds.”

Students pull on waterproof boots and walk out into one of the Center’s 15-year-old restored wetlands, where they find crayfish, tadpoles, dragonfly nymphs, snails, and diving beetles. The small aquatic animals found in the water depend on specific temperature ranges in order to survive. The students consider how the health of the habitat might change if the global temperature increases just a small amount, causing more frequent hot days in Maryland and the water temperature to rise above its normal range.

As a global issue, climate change is often framed as a problem for the Arctic or low-lying islands far away, but the focus on local wetlands not only gives students a chance to see how climate change will affect human communities and wildlife on the Eastern Shore, but to also participate in positive solutions.

A sixth grade student holds up a crayfish found during a wetland survey at Pickering Creek.

In class, students learn how burning of fossil fuels results in Earth’s atmosphere trapping more heat on Earth. In a wetland soil lab they learn how the low-oxygen condition of the wetland soil enables it to store carbon for thousands of years. That characteristic of wetland soil makes wetlands a “carbon sink,” or a place that stores more carbon than is released. When the students add plants to the new wetland on their field trip, they are increasing the soil’s capacity to capture and store heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Students walk away from their field experience with a firm grasp of the local impacts of climate change on wildlife—and also with knowledge of community-based solutions. One student reflected, “I wish people knew that climate change affects animals finding food, not just your electric bill for air conditioning!” Asked what actions they or the community could take to help local wetlands, students respond with ideas ranging from cutting their carbon footprint to planting more native plants for local birds and using renewable energies.

This project is supported in part by the Chesapeake Audubon Society, MADE CLEAR and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Pickering Creek Audubon Center sees Eastern Shore students of all grade levels for hands on, standards-aligned environmental education programs in both classroom and field-based experiences. Educators and schools interested in developing a program for their students should contact the Center at 410-822-4903 to begin planning for the 2017-18 school year.

Birding Competition- Student pairs use binoculars and bird guides to identify as many birds as possible during their field trip at Pickering Creek.
Crayfish – A sixth grade student holds up a crayfish found during a wetland survey at Pickering Creek.

For more information, press only:
Mark Scallion
410-822-4903
mscallion@audubon.org
For more information on the events:
www.pickeringcreek.org

Bay Ecosystem: Seventh Graders Explore Biodiversity at Pickering

There are over 3,600 species of plants and animals found in the Chesapeake Bay, from tiny grass shrimp to great blue herons, from cattails to towering tulip poplars. Many of these can be found easily in Talbot County, as seventh graders at Pickering Creek are discovering during a day of active exploration.

A St. Michaels Middle School student holds up the pumpkinseed fish he caught while fishing in Pickering Creek.

This May and June Pickering Creek Audubon Center hosted Talbot County seventh graders as they explored local biodiversity. Described by one student as “the study of the complexity and diversity of living things,” biodiversity is a theme students have focused on in school. An in-school lesson led by Pickering educators earlier in the year included explorations on taxonomy, or how organisms are classified. Students made observations on different physical features and adaptations of plants and animals, thinking about how a biodiverse ecosystem includes species with hundreds of different adaptations.

During their field experience at Pickering Creek students get a taste of biodiversity “in action,” and discover for themselves which species are found locally. Each activity students complete—fishing on the dock, hiking the trails with binoculars, pulling seine nets through the creek—is designed to bring them into contact with a new group of organisms. The species list—student generated proof of local biodiversity—grows as each group adds their new finds to it.

Biodiversity is an important concept in the Bay, as in all ecosystems. During their field trip students consider the advantages of high species diversity, such as a greater number of natural resources (like food) being available for humans and other animals. Students learn that the more biodiversity in an ecosystem, the better that ecosystem can withstand change or disaster.

Leading seventh grade trips focused on biodiversity has multiple benefits: students build significantly on their knowledge of ecology, but also get the chance to explore and experience nature in an active way. Activities such as searching the forest for insects and seining in the creek are loved by students for this reason. In the forest students spread out to hunt for worms, insects, toads, and other small critters. The experience is new for many of them, and they find the freedom to explore and catch things exciting. “I can catch that toad? Really?” asks one student. Similarly, seining in the creek is a chance for students to find something new, unexpected, or often unnoticed. “That was really fun,” another student added after reluctantly leaving the creek and pulling off waders.

“I just like any kind of hands-on activity,” said Easton Middle School teacher Anna Brohawn of the field trip. “Any kind of hands-on activity to make a connection, the students love. Some kids need to go to their laptops. But I want them to make connections outside the box, on their own.”

At the conclusion of each field trip students review their species totals. Students have found as many as 51 animal species in a single afternoon—proof of not only local biodiversity, but of the students’ engagement and persistence in finding that biodiversity.

Pickering Creek Audubon Center sees Eastern Shore students of all grade levels for hands on, standards-aligned environmental education programs in both classroom and field-based experiences. Educators and schools interested in developing a program for their students should contact the Center at 410-822-4903 to begin planning for the 2017-18 school year.

For more information: Mark Scallion 410-822-4903 mscallion@audubon.org

Pickering Creek Audubon Hosts Toast & Taste at Historic Harleigh

On Saturday, June 10 Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s Tour, Toast & Taste will be held at Chip and Sally Akridge’s Harleigh on Oxford Rd. The event will afford guests a rare look inside Harleigh and a great opportunity to socialize and add culinary adventures to their social calendars for the upcoming year.

Each year, Pickering Creek selects one of Easton’s finest estates to host its largest fundraiser of the year. The event includes a home tour, food, drink, entertainment, live and silent auction and an opportunity to purchase seats at unique events held throughout the year. In 2017, the Tour, Toast & Taste committee is extremely excited to have Harleigh join the list of other magnificent properties to have hosted this spectacular event including Hope House, Forrest Landing, Myrtle Grove, Wye House, and Knightly.

Fronting a tranquil Eastern Shore tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the property’s original clapboard farmhouse dates to the mid-1800s. But it wasn’t until 2007, that the couple initiated an extensive renovation with the Baltimore architectural and design firm Johnson/Berman.

The team lavished equal attention on the estate’s grounds, which swelled as the Akridges acquired surrounding agricultural parcels that had been destined for high-density residential development. These days, a stroll around the property reveals areas of horticultural identity that are distinct and yet expertly play off of each other to create one of the most enchanting residential gardens of the Chesapeake region.

Under Sally’s direction, the English-style formal garden the beds are resplendent with hostas, roses, and stunning ornamental onion blooms that suggest an explosion of purple summertime fireworks. “This whole place is a canvas for almost any kind of expression,” Sally says. “We like to honor those who were here before us, because we’re just custodians for a while.”

On the opposite side of the house, Chip has modeled a huge kitchen garden and perennial bed after the ones tended by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Starting uphill and sloping toward the water, twenty-nine raised beds sprout strawberries, sweet peas, collards, okra, heirloom tomatoes, and Chip’s favorite—popping corn. “When I was growing up, my grandparents were big garden folks,” Chip says. “We always canned vegetables and it stayed with me.”

Beyond the vegetables are swaths of red poppies and chamomile in four small wildflower meadows, a transitional zone to the estate’s less-manicured environs. The Akridges have turned two-thirds of the commercial agricultural acreage back into wildlife habitat, providing terrific food and shelter for ducks, geese, songbirds, wild turkeys and quail, and bird watching opportunities for local wildlife enthusiasts.

Chip & Sally’s appreciation for wildlife and the need to improve habitat, which they have demonstrated along Oxford Road makes Harleigh a terrific location to celebrate Pickering Creek Audubon Center’s work to reconnect people with nature and their own role in stewarding the Chesapeake regions natural resources.

The evening of June 10th will begin with a guided first floor tour of the home, where docents will discuss the history of the home and the notable renovations and improvements the Akridges have made to make it the outstanding place it is today. Both Chip and Sally will be on hand to answer questions.

At the conclusion of the tour, guests will move to the spacious green behind the home overlooking the Tred Avon River to enjoy cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres while signing up and purchasing seats at a wide variety of dinners and events that will be held throughout the year. Dinners and events ranging from gourmet meals to themed ethnic dinners, local and historical specialty dinners, brunches, and Crab Feasts will be available for purchase. There is something for everyone, and they all benefit the conservation education conducted daily at Pickering Creek.

Naturalist and friend of the Center, Mike Callahan will conclude the evening with a special presentation of live raptors of Maryland. Callahan is an expert on barn owls and raptors and introduces the public to them through his work with Southern Maryland Audubon Society and Charles County Public Schools. Guests will have an opportunity to learn about the birds and see them up close.

This year’s Tour, Toast and Taste is generously sponsored by Chip and Sally Akridge, the Dock Street Foundation, the Frederick Richmond Foundation, Shore Bancshares, The Wilford Nagel Group at Morgan Stanley, Bruce Wiltsie and Bill Davenport, Chesapeake Audubon Society, Bill and Mary Griffin, Cheryl Tritt and Philip Walker, Richard and Beverly Tilghman, Jo Storey, the Star Democrat, Colin Walsh and Carolyn Williams, Bartlett, Griffin and Vermilye, The Hill Group at Morgan Stanley, Clay Railey and Don Wooters, George and Cemmy Peterson, Wye Gardens, LLC, Wayne and Jodi Shaner, and many others.

For over 30 years, Pickering Creek Audubon Center has provided environmental education opportunities to students of the Eastern Shore, moving them from awareness of their watershed to conservation action in their communities. Since establishing a well-reputed elementary education program in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools 25 years ago, Audubon has added meaningful watershed experiences for middle and high school students to our continuum of education along with community outreach education about our regions unique saltmarshes. Pickering Creek reaches the people of the Eastern Shore throughout their academic careers outdoor learning experiences that encourage them to continue interacting with the outdoors frequently.
Tickets can be purchased online and more information can be found at www.pcacevents.org. For more information call the Center at 410-822-4903.

For more information:
Mark Scallion
410-822-4903
mscallion@audubon.org
For more information on the event:
www.pcacevents.org